11 November, 2015

Pelargoniums and Margie

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

The second plant in my False Bay Dozen for Diana is the white pelargonium. When we sold our Camps Bay house and moved to Porterville my mother was already old and frail, but she wanted to see the town again (she remembered going to a spring flower show years before). My sister Margie brought mother to visit us. Mother brought me a gnarled little cutting which I carefully divided into 3 greenish bits. We waited and waited for our builder to start. Finally I could start planting the first bed outside our new front door.

White pelargonium from my mother

Broad leaves of white pelargonium

When we moved to False Bay, I brought the pot that stood in the shade between the two ash trees, for cuttings against the boundary wall at the Washing Pergola. The leaves are fragrant if the washing lands on them. White flowers remind me of butterflies, or sheets on the washing line of the fynbos fairies.

Pelargoniums I found in the False Bay garden

In this garden I found a huge shrub with tiny pink clusters of flowers. A deep red and a raspberry ripple ivy pelargonium - succulent leaves with a fresh fragrance. A flaming scarlet and an exuberant lipstick pink with maroon splodges.

grown from seed
or from our Camps Bay, then Porterville gardens

From Porterville I bought a salmon pelargonium which once came from my mother's Camps Bay garden. Two pink ones have delicate markings (seed from Kirstenbosch) one with full leaves, the other oak-leaved. Pelargonium tomentosum is shade-loving and has minty leaves with delicate white flowers that float above the leaves. Succulent pelargonium on the Karoo Koppie is flourishing. Nutmeg pelargonium has enchanting flowers and kidney-shaped nutmeg scented leaves.

Sadly the cuttings from the large pink for my vase flowers haven't survived?

Pelargonium fulgidum
Cape Columbine July 2010

Tiny red flowers on Pelargonium fulgidum is another that my mother loved. The picture is a wild plant at Cape Columbine.

Pelargonium Valentine October 2009

Pelargonium Valentine in Porterville shows the full magic.

Melianthus major

October's False Bay Dozen for Diana was Melianthus. I look forward to your November choices.
Pam in the Pocono Mountains of Pennnsylvania. From my Alstroemeria to her ZZ plant!
Donna in upstate New York. Blanket flower -  this plant could blanket the ground with drifts of the flower. One Native American legend tells the story of when an excellent weaver died, her grave was covered with flowers as brilliantly colored as the blankets she made.
From Beth in Wisconsin the fascinating cup plant
Heart stones from Margie

Margie and I shared a love of rocks and stones. When I told her I read a novel about heart stones, and I'd never seen one - she gave me these two.

Four sisters

We are four sisters. My earliest memory of Margie is the story she loved to tell me. (My sisters are all older than me, my nieces all closer to my age, I am between). When my first niece was born and Margie's friends came to admire the new baby, someone asked almost 5 me, and who are you? Margie enjoyed saying Diana drew herself up to her full height of two bricks and a tickey and declared I, am The Aunt!

My sister introduced herself to our friends as I am an artist. That is how I choose to remember her. The seagull she bought when we visited an artist's studio. Her Maid of the Forest sculpture lighting up the garden. Blue raku pot displayed in the kitchen. A watercolour of Table Mountain she once painted to the delight of the Ungardener's parents. Pastel portrait of me as a girl.

After my mother died, my sister battled with breast cancer. She moved to Devon to be with her daughter - and we are deeply grateful that they had some good time together. We have been keeping vigil. Less than 48 hours after Chocolat went over the Rainbow Bridge, it was my sister and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Margie's story in flowers from my garden

I told my sister's story in a bunch of flowers from our garden. Coprosma for our father and our New Zealand roots. Lavender for our English mother and her garden posies. Inca lilies and Bougainvillea for my niece who lives in New Mexico, roses and lavender for my niece in Devon. Red Bougainvillea and blue Gilia for my oldest sister, purple Mexican sage and white roses for my youngest sister. Dusty Miller from the Mediterranean for Margie's love of Greece, seven weeks fern for happiness in Knysna. Pelargoniums from my South African wild flowers.

Eleven eleven. Flanders poppies in my garden. Granpa Yeates.

Pictures by Diana and Jurg Studer
of Elephant's Eye on False Bay

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  1. Oh Diana - I am sorry for your loss - both of Chocolat and of your sister Margie.

    T'is easy to say, they are now in no pain, and suffer no more. But the heartache and emptiness left behind is all-consuming. I know.

    May you draw strength and comfort from your wonderful memories of them.

    I loved your sister's story - thank you for sharing it.

    1. Margie had dreams of writing a novel, and I think of her as I write my blog stories.

  2. Beautiful!

    I have always loved potted white Pelargoniums indoors in winter.

    Looking at your composite pictures above, I realized that, in South Africa, you could make a wonderful planting bed of mixed Pelagoniums in the way that some make rose or dahlia beds.

    1. I use my pelargoniums like rose bushes, as focal colour accents. That flamboyant pink and magenta must be moved. And some red ones to the Karoo Koppie.

  3. Thinking of you Diana, at this difficult time.

  4. There was such magic in your last paragraph. It was like the fairy tale: The Secret Garden. Each blessed person in your life was remembered with love there. As a woman who has lost a sister, there are just no words. I can tell you are holding her close in your heart. How I wish I knew where they have gone. Over the Rainbow Bridge is as good a place as I have ever heard and I think I will adopt it. I planted a young maple for my sister, Jill, and she is just turning shades of light red. May your sister rest in peace. And Diana....I must know: what are the fynbos fairies?

    1. inspired by the English flower fairies

      but using our own fynbos flowers

    2. Thank you. I do have a book of the Flower Fairies. It is time to take it out again and remind myself of all that is there. There was a time when it was at my bedside. Thank you.

  5. So sorry to hear your sad news, I will be thinking of you and your family.

  6. I am sorry for your loss Diana. You always find the right words and flowers.

  7. Dear Diana: I'm so sorry for your loss. The story and the flowers are a beautiful tribute. Your Pelargoniums look so lovely in their springtime setting. I am thinking about you.

  8. What a wonderful tribute to your mother, your sister and to the whole family, with your words and your lovely flowers. Very poignant. I was just picking sweet peas and thinking of my mother (sweet peas were one of her favourite flowers) when I came in and read your post.... gardens and flowers give us such strong connections with loved ones.

    1. my mother too. She dressed in mauve and lilac and lavender - gentle sweetpea colours.

  9. I am so very moved by your lovely tribute to your sister, Diana. Her story in your bunch of flowers is incredible.

    Love your November choice. What a wonderful assortment of Pelargoniums you show. Here they are annual and called geraniums. I buy some most years and grow them in pots. I prefer the scented, trailing ones.

    I am sending hugs and prayers your way! P. x

  10. What a beautiful blog and beautiful flowers for your sister. I loved her story about the five year old version of you, the Aunt.

  11. O, Diana, I am so sorry to learn about your sister, and I extend my heartfelt sympathy! Breast cancer has certainly impacted your family. The heart stones are a beautiful treasure, and the floral tribute to your sister was deeply moving. I was also amazed at the lovely variety of pelargoniums. I think I may try pelargonium in my own garden. Hugs to you from the other end of the world, Deb

  12. Sad and poignant lovely post, Diana, using flowers for associations and memories and hopefully ultimately comfort. Someone said the past is a foreign country. I can't remember who said it but they must have been very young. The past can be part of the present.

  13. Diana I am so sorry for your losses...such special ones, your sister and your precious Chocolat. Pelargoniums have such a special meaning for you....I plant special plants in my garden for loved ones who are gone now. I will have another Dozen plant on Monday...usually the third Monday of the month.

    1. thank you for your kindness, and for joining in. I'll catch your post in Feedly.

  14. I add my sorrow to that already expressed at your recent losses. As you relate these touching stories and plant memorial blossoms, may your heart be lightened and your memories edge towards joy. Lives shared in love will always be mourned as death comes to call, but rather than ending those relationships, I believe you will find they are simply altered, never over.

    Pelargoniums dislike our summers here in Texas but a few will grow with extra encouragement. I've always enjoyed the spicy scent of the leaves just as much as the flowers.

    1. oh yes the leaves! Mint, citrus, nutmeg, and each variation on spicy green.

  15. So much loss in a short time. My thoughts are with you. -Jean

  16. I am so sorry for your loss and for the challenges that you have faced recently - may you find peace in your memories.

    Linking your family and friends to a plant that you cherish is such a simple but brilliant idea because your love for them continues to be expressed in a physical way. I had not thought of that before but I shall never forget it.